After coming off the high of Koh Lipe we weren’t sure how we were going to cope with being back in Malaysia. The beaches along Malaysia’s west coast (from what we had seen so far) just didn’t compare. We made our way back to Langkawi and over to Penang ( on bargain flights costing $3 per person – thanks to Air Asia Mega Sale!). We spent 5 days in a 3 bed apartment in Batu Ferringhi enjoying more space and a pool. We also hit the local Tesco and stocked up on some groceries. Having done most of our food shopping in a 7/11 so far , Tesco was like a food wonderland. Murray headed straight to the ‘non halal’ section to get his bacon fix and I was finally able to buy fruit, vegetables, pasta and other staples to cook a meal at home. Our apartment in Batu Ferringhi was also right opposite one of the nicest Shangri-La hotels I have ever seen. The Shangri-La is a bit out of our price range this trip but it didn’t stop us from wandering in there each day, swimming in their pool, drinking glasses of wine ( wine is ridiculously expensive in Malaysia, but happy hour at the Shangri-La was $4/glass) and using the kids adventure zone. I’m pretty sure the staff there thought we were guests of the hotel. Naturally we were staying in room ‘250’ if asked.
Batu Ferringhi is also near Georgetown, a small town full of British heritage architecture as well as Chinese shop fronts. We strolled around the streets admiring the famous street art work and stumbled across China House which had the most impressive display of cakes I have ever seen. We ordered tea, scones and jam and were in heaven.
Moving on from Batu Ferringhi we headed inland and up into the mountains. After hours of winding roads and several vomit bags later ( Maya again) we arrived in the Cameron Highlands. The temperature was cool ( around 20 degrees) and the scenery was spectacular. We spent the next few days wandering around tea plantations ,strawberry farms, bee farms, butterfly farms and lavender gardens. It was well worth the visit ( despite the vomit) just to soak up the beauty of the place and to enjoy some cooler temperatures.
Unfortunately for us we picked the busiest weekend of the year to visit Cameron Highlands after a national election and change of government. The new-old (he’s 92 and a former PM of the party he just toppled) Prime Minister, Mahathir, had announced a 2 day public holiday and a 4 day long weekend. It seemed that Cameron Highlands was the place to be. Strangely we did not come across many Western tourists, and none with blond hair and freckles ( yes, photos galore).
After a brief stopover in KL , which was starting to feel a bit like home, we boarded a plane for Kota Bharu; a very Muslim part of Malaysia and a place most tourists bypass. We were staying the night solely so we could stock up on food before we headed across to the Perhentian Islands. I knew we were going to be spending a week in a place without shops and limited food options, so it seemed sensible to hit Kota Bharu mall for biscuits, fruit, chips, nuts and anything else we could possibly carry. Once again we were the token foreigners.
The following day we took a car to Kuala Besut and boarded a small boat out to Perhentian Besar. Life jackets were randomly handed out. Everybody received one except Murray, myself, Maya and Brooke. Did we look like we were all strong swimmers, except Sienna? Why were adults given life jackets over kids? The mind boggled but fortunately we arrived safely on the island.
A quick fuel stop at ‘Belinda’s Cafe’ ( how could we not) and we were shown to our bungalow. We were lucky in that we chose a great spot for us – plenty of space for the kids to play while we sat on the veranda, a couple of cafes within 50m and the most amazing beach to swim/ snorkel nearby. In all honesty Perhentian Besar has been my favourite place so far. It is much more low-key compared to Koh Lipe. There are no shops, no massages, no loud music and very few people. Instead there is white sand, coral you can snorkel to off the beach, giant sea turtles you can also swim to off the beach, kayaks to hire and the most amazing crystal clear blue water you have ever seen.
Life is very simple on the Perhentians, but very satisfying. It also helped that we had AC and hot water. The kids all got to see loads of sea life, swim and snorkel every day, feed squirrels and play with other kids. Maya did her school work by the sea sipping fresh mango juices.
Perhentians are a little tricky to reach , hence why they are so pristine and quiet , but we are very glad we put this amazing spot on our agenda. My advice, give Langkawi a wide berth and head to Koh Lipe or Perhentian Islands if you are looking for an ideal island experience. I hope to come back here again one day – it is nothing short of paradise.
Next stop…. Sri Lanka